The Strange Feeling of a Slump

Slumps come in different walks of life.  There’s the guy or gal who suddenly can’t make a sale, even though they were Sales Guy or Gal of the Month just two months ago.  There’s the novelist who suddenly can’t type anything more interesting than “Once upon a time…”  There’s the standup comedian (or comedienne) who doesn’t kill from the stage anymore; instead the audience wants to kill him (or her).  There’s the regular Joe (or Joanne) who just doesn’t feel right.  He/she (could be a cross-dresser, who knows?) gets out of bed in the morning and can’t find their way.  Nothing tastes good to eat.  Nothing with any flavor washes the tasteless food down.  Work drags, friends are distant, you’ve lost the ability to parallel park.  There’s nothing on TV, a long lost acquaintance found you on Facebook and you realize they’ve done better than you, it seems, at just about everything since high school or college.  You can’t fall asleep and have no idea if you’ll go through this again tomorrow.

Sound familiar?

Now imagine you’re getting paid $16 million to not go through this.   Imagine the pressure from 40,000 fans who have loved you in the past, the very recent past, and are now, let’s just say not cheering you.  Imagine knowing there are possibly a million or more people who know you’re not having a good day; that you haven’t really had a good day for about 29 days in a row.  Imagine them talking about you on the radio, on television, in the papers, on the web, showing video of you failing, replaying your public comments over and over and over again.  Imagine doing everything in your power to get out of this and nothing works.  You can’t fall asleep and have no idea if you’ll go through this again tomorrow.

David Wright of the Mets feels this way now.  Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins feels this way now.  Pick your favorite team and there is at least one player who feels this way right now.

They say slumps bring out the best in someone.  They say that usually in hindsight because when the someone comes out of the slump, they’ve battled and shown competitive fire and made adjustments and gone back to basics and God just knows that for whatever reason they aren’t striking out 3 times a game or throwing 8 balls for every strike or letting easy ground balls go through their legs anymore.  Slumps bring out the worst in everyone.  You can’t feel good in a slump.  Not if you’re a regular person living a regular life hoping to maybe meet that special someone and not feel so lonely anymore.  Or if you’re that regular person with the job you don’t really like but no ability to find something better because you can’t take a day off or are lacking the confidence to interview well.  Slumps make you mad and frustrated.  Slumps ruin days and strain relationships.  Slumps make you tired and irritable.  Slumps are endless until they end.  And then you feel much better.  And then you’re better for it.  But while in a slump, you’re the devil.  The demon has you and you can’t shake him.  You’re not fun to be around and vice versa.  Slumps don’t bring out the best in someone.  They show off the worst – in all walks of life.

You can easily say, especially in this economy, that a slump in baseball isn’t a big deal because the player is getting paid so much money.  They have a cushion.  Here you’re wrong.  Suppose the player is young and plays himself out of a job.  Suppose the player is one of those can’t-miss guys who is missing at the worst possible time.   Suppose a player is immature and works so hard to get out of the slump he hurts himself and keeps playing and makes the injury worse, landing him on the DL.  Suppose you’re Cody Ransom of the Yankees.  It was your time to shine with the Alex Rodriguez injury.  Now you’re on the 60-day DL yourself, longer than A-Rod’s projected absence.

Slumps ruin careers.  Slumps can, at the extreme, ruin lives.  David Wright, in a slump, is a lucky man.  His past performance indicates he’ll find his way out of this slump eventually and produce numbers for the Mets.  He’s earned the luxury of time.  Brett Gardner, who won the starting center field job for the Yankees out of spring training, slumped his way out of the job and sits the bench now, replaced by Melky Cabrera, who ironically had slumped his way out of the job at the end of last season.  But Melky is back and hitting again.  Just like the salesman who finally makes that elusive sale.  Or the comedienne who comes up with a great joke in her dreams.  Or the regular, everyday person who goes to work and is on the receiving end of a surprising smile.  You can gradually dig your way out or it can all come back at once.  If there is patience, there will be results.  Only in baseball, there’s no time for patience.

Unless you’re David Wright, a guy who will find his way and earn his money.  Eventually.

Jimmy Scott is probably the greatest pitcher you’ve never heard of.  Visit Jimmy Scott’s High & Tight to read more from Jimmy.  You’ll also hear a new interview every Monday morning with former MLB players, agents, wives and others; giving new outlooks on this great game we call Baseball.  Go there now to hear Jimmy’s latest interviews with Nelson & Alisa Figueroa, Desi Relaford, Chase Lambin and MLB Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.  You can follow Jimmy on Twitter or Facebook.

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